Flowers bring joy to so many people and that is one of the reasons I enjoy growing them so much, a gift of flowers is always special and a seasonal bouquet has that little bit extra to offer.
I’ve been growing flowers here at Bramble Cottage for the last seven years or so and look forward to each new season as it approaches. My flower season starts around the middle of March here in Norfolk, always weather dependent as we have had some years that are very warm, bringing the blooms forward, and then other years that are snowy and frozen and the flowers, understandably, refuse to come out when it is cold.
So, what do we have to look forward to in the coming weeks? A mainstay of spring are the narcissi, commonly known as daffodils. What better sight to welcome the longer days and milder weather than a bunch of bright yellow trumpet daffs in a jug on the kitchen windowsill? But the choice doesn’t stop there. Each year new varieties or types of narcissi are introduced on to the market and now there are a wide range of colours and shapes to grow and many that are scented too.
Each autumn I look at new choices for the following spring in deciding which varieties of bulbs to plant. The cycle of flower growing is a year long process, narcissi bulbs for spring flowering are planted in the September of the previous year.
So on their way for this season are a large bright yellow daff called Gigantic Star, a double flowering golden Yellow Cheerfulness which has a very sweet scent and Bridal Crown, another double with creamy-white petals and a lemon centre clustered at the top of the stems. A flower is described as ‘double’ when it has multiple layers of petals, producing a really full looking flower head.
I also grow Obdam, and Ice King, both doubles in shades of creamy-lemon and Thallia, a daff with small trumpets of white, two or three to a stem. These are just a few of the narcissi that will be available for bouquets and arrangements in the coming weeks.
Hellebores are another popular spring flower. I’ve gradually filled the Woodland Garden at Bramble Cottage with lots of Hellebores, the flower heads start to push up during January and February and are perfect for displays in March and April.
The colours range from whites through pink and into deep plum and add an exotic element to a bouquet or flower arrangement. I also grow a lime green variety which has a real zing of colour.
Ranunculus are really beginning to be popular as a spring flower. Planted in the autumn the corms produce long stems with flowers that have layers and layers of petals which look similar to a small rose and are quite beautiful and the colours are breathtaking. I particularly like the pastels of pink and salmon…
There are so many different flowers that we can grow in the UK and use in bouquets and arrangements. Brunnera is a very pretty perennial plant that is very easy to grow, the leaves are heart-shaped and the flowers are delicate sprays of blue or white that appear in early spring. I particularly like the variety Jack Frost which has the most gorgeous silvered leaves veined and edged with green and clouds of blue flowers that are so delicate added to flower displays, peeping out between other spring blooms.
Hyacinths are a popular spring flower for bouquets and it’s no surprise as they have such a heady scent. They come in many colours, my favourites have to be the blues, used with fresh white they are very eye-catching, but I also like the pinks and soft apricot too.
There are some beautiful flowering shrubs that I use in my bouquets at this time of year. Viburnum tinus Ladybird is a favourite, it has deep green leaves and the flower heads have pink buds opening to white. I used these blooms along with plummy pink hellebores and glossy dark green ivy in table centres a couple of years ago at a talk by the Countess of Carnarvon of Highclere Castle or ‘Downton Abbey’ as it is better known as. I have to say I was very pleased with the results.
Some early spring-flowering shrubs in flower displays add a different dimension. The flower heads on Mahonia are particularly dramatic, the lemon-yellow flower spikes are delicately scented, I have to take care handling this shrub though, I need to wear gloves as the leaves are very prickly.
Bird Cherry (Prunus padus) is a truly lovely shrub with arches of white flowers that add a delicate frothy look to a bouquet or vase arrangement. This can be cut long for larger arrangements or shorter for bouquets. Catkins are also very pretty at this time of year, Garrya elliptica has greyish-green catkins which droop in long lengths and bring movement to displays. I also love the flowering quince, Chaenomeles, which has these pretty clusters of flowers in shades of red, pink, orange and white. The flowers appear before any leaves which is unusual and very attractive.
So the grey days of winter are pretty much over now and it’s nearly time to put together lovely spring blooms for my customers. Here are some examples of the flowers you can expect to enjoy in the coming weeks…